Monday, November 26, 2018

Diary from Sky Range Ranch – October 19 through November 15, 2018

OCTOBER 28 – Last week we had exceptionally warm weather, up into the 60’s during the daytime even though it was freezing hard at night. It was great for the cattle, and for riding up to the 320-acre pasture to check on them. Andrea and I made a fast ride up there last Saturday to make sure they are doing ok (and that the gates were still closed, with all the hunting activity). We’d dressed fairly warm to start out, but by the time we were going up the ridge in the 320 we were too hot. Andrea took off her sweatshirt, but left it on her head, ready to slip it back on when we went down into the shaded cold area in Baker Creek. I took photos of her sweatshirt on her head.
Andrea took off sweatshirt - onto her head
sweatshirt on her head
I also took some photos of a few contented cows lounging around on the ridge…
cows lounging on ridge
..and a couple close-up photos of Double Trouble (granddaughter Heather’s young cow) that we saved from freezing to death when she was a newborn. We managed to save her frozen feet, but not her ears, and we later nicknamed her “pig” because of her short ears.
pig & her short ears
We were in a hurry that day so we didn’t go clear to the top gate, but checked the gate in Baker Creek before we headed home. I took photos of Andrea and Shiloh as we paused near that gate to make sure it was still shut and locked.
checking gate in Baker Creek
Dottie did ok on that ride with just 3 shoes (no shoe on her left hind foot). Even though the bare foot chipped a little going through so many rocks, there’s still enough hoof wall and she’s not tender. I’m hoping she’ll make it through the rest of the fall riding without having to put new shoes on, because our riding days are numbered. Once the cows come home from the 320 we’ll take all the horses’ shoes off for winter.

Andrea had the kids that weekend, and Sam decided she’d like to sing in the choir at church. So Andrea, Sam, Dani and I went in a bit early (the choir practices for about 45 minutes just ahead of the church service) and Sam enjoyed singing in the choir. Both girls have lovely voices, but Dani was too shy to participate in the choir this time.

That afternoon Andrea took the kids hunting. They saw a few does, but no bucks. She took a photo of the kids while they were out hiking around.
Andrea, Dani & Charlie hunting
Granddaughter Heather in Canada sent us a few photos of young Joseph “helping” with chores, “riding” one of the horses, and climbing into the combine. They’ve been really busy trying to get their grain harvested, with setbacks due to wet weather (having to wait for it to dry out enough to combine) and big flocks of geese and ducks coming in to eat the grain and knock it down.
cowboy Joseph
Joseph climbing into the combine
She also sent a photo of huge carrots they grew in their garden this year. Joseph enjoyed helping weed and water the garden all summer. He’s a happy little farmer.
big carrots
little farmer
Dani has been enjoying learning to play basketball with the 8th grade team. Andrea takes her in every morning at 6 a.m. on school days, to practice. Their team hasn’t won any games yet, but they are doing better.

On Tuesday Andrea went to Mud Lake with Jim; he took a trailer load of antlers to sell to a guy who buys a lot of elk and deer antlers. Lynn went to town for his checkup with the bone and joint specialist who comes to Salmon periodically from Missoula, Montana. Lynn’s shoulder is doing a little better than it was earlier, but still painful, so the doctor put a couple cortisone shots into the joints and prescribed a few weeks of physical therapy.

That was the evening that Sam was singing in the Salmon Idol program, and her song was scheduled for about 5:30 p.m. Andrea and Jim got back from the antler-selling trip by mid-afternoon and Andrea went to town right after they got home. Lynn stayed in town after his doctor appointment, and Jim and I drove in right after I fed the horses (a bit early). We got there just in time to hear Sam sing. She was the only kid who did her song without music, and it was awesome. That kid has a great voice, a lot of range, and good control.

Speaking of Sam, here are a couple photos Andrea took of her lounging around at home, and goofing off wearing a wig.
Sam lounging around
Sam wearing a wig
The next day Andrea and I made another fast ride to the 320 to check on the cows, leaving mid-morning. The cows were all spread out and doing well, with more of them up high where there’s still a lot of grass. Many of them were over by Preacher’s Spring. We went up to the top gate to make sure it was still shut, climbing up it from that far side of the ridge. Here are photos of Andrea as we went up through the sagebrush.
climbing up the Preacher's Spring side of the ridge
Andrea & Shiloh heading for the top
Here are more photos, taken as we climbed the last steep slope to the top gate.
almost to the top
After checking the gate we came back down the other side of the ridge, down close to the timber, checking for a few cows we hadn’t seen yet. Shiloh was eager to head home and Andrea had to use a bit of gentle “hold back” to keep her down to a relaxed walk instead of a rushing trot down that steep mountain.
going down along the timber looking for cows
Andrea keeping Shiloh from rushing home
As we came on down off the steepest part, Shiloh was full of restrained energy and spooked at a bird that flew up in front of her.
coming down from the top
Shiloh spooking at a bird
After we got down off the rocky ridge and came on down Baker Creek, we trotted the rest of the way home; we had to get home in time for Andrea to drive to Challis to watch Dani’s basketball game.

That afternoon Lynn decided to move the little tractor that’s been sitting across the creek all summer. He wanted to bring it closer to the house so we can plug it in if we need to use it after the weather gets cold, but it wouldn’t start. Jim helped him carry the battery-charger over there, and he was able to get it started.

Thursday was really windy in the morning, but warm. Michael stopped by to borrow our longest extension ladder; he and his fence crew were putting up some huge entry-way gates for a rancher, and needed a ladder to get the crosspieces on.

That evening Lynn went to Dani’s home game. Her team is getting better with practice, and Dani has become one of their most ambitious players.

Yesterday and today we’ve had rain, but it let up yesterday afternoon which was nice, since Michael and Carolyn came by with their flatbed trailer to get a couple of big round bales for their horses.

This afternoon Andrea and I rode to check the cows, in spite of a little rain. We saw all the cows and they were still spread out and doing well. I took photos of some of the cows licking salt down in Baker Creek, another photo of “Pig” and her short ears, and a photo of Andrea checking her phone.
cows in Baker Creek licking salt
Andrea checking her phone
Today I cooked a big roast and we had supper here when Andrea got the kids home from the weekend with their dad.
Joseph helping drive the combine
Joseph Oct 28
Granddaughter Heather sent us more photos of Joseph – riding in the combine with the big folks, and walking around in the shoes of some big folks (on the wrong feet).

NOVEMBER 7 – We’ve had a fair bit of rain this past week, and some snow in the mountains. Lynn went to his physical therapy sessions a couple times, and his shoulder is doing a little better.

Joints seem to be a big problem with us old folks; my brother had knee surgery (basically got a new knee) this past Wednesday, and spent a couple days in the hospital. Recovery seems to be going well, and he’s doing better each day.

We ran out of what was left of the old big round bales we were feeding the bulls, so Jim and Andrea used the feed truck to get a load of little bales to haul around to the bull pen. The feed truck’s battery was low, after not being used all summer, and we had to use jumper cables to start it, and then let it run awhile to recharge the battery. That old truck is 45 years old, but it’s still a great old truck for hauling and feeding hay.

Mornings have been cold and it feels like winter. Andrea took this photo of Charlie and Sam bundled up and ready to head off to school.
Charlie & Sam
On Friday Lynn drove to Hughes Creek to locate water for a fellow who needs to put in a well, and Andrea and I rode to the 320 (in the rain) to check on the cows. We wore our chaps and heavy coat (Andrea wore a rain coat) and we stayed dry. The cows were doing really well and spread out all over, so we didn’t even try to see them all. I took a couple photos of Andrea when the rain let up for a few minutes as we were riding up the ridge to see where the cows were.
Andrea riding up the ridge
Then we hurried home again so I could get back in time to meet with Traudy Bagley; she brought a bunch of her old photo albums out here to the ranch so I could scan some photos to use with a series of stories I wrote about her husband Darrel.

Darrel Bagley started out on a ranch in Colorado, and raised many good cattle and horses. When he was in his mid-thirties, when his kids were in high school, he had a serious accident while blasting ice out of the river channel (the ice buildup that winter was flooding their cattle pens and barnyard where they were calving), nearly losing his life. The blast took off both arms nearly to the elbow, and seriously damaged his eyes. Thanks to good doctors, he survived, and didn’t lose all of his vision. He refused to stay in the hospital very long, and went back to the ranch to finish calving the cows, with most of his face bandaged, and bandaged stumps for arms. He rode his horse to sort out the calving cows, looping the reins over his bandaged stumps.

Later he was fitted for hooks that opened and closed, in place of hands, and he used those so adeptly that he never went back for prosthetic arms/hands. For the rest of his life he did everything with those hooks, bridling, saddling and riding horses, sorting cattle, driving machinery, and didn’t let his handicaps slow him down. He bought more ranches—in Idaho, Nebraska, and Oregon, and was very successful—continuing to breed and raise good horses and good cattle.
Darrel & one of his stallions
Lynn and I became well acquainted with Darrel and Traudy when they lived here in our valley, and were good friends. Traudy went on the same endurance rides that I did during the 1970’s and we had some good times on those rides. Here’s a photo of Traudy on the 60-mile Bitterroot Ride.
Traudy on Bitterroot Ride
I have been writing Darrel’s biography for his family (interviewed him many hours by phone, after they were on their final ranch in Oregon) but didn’t quite get it finished before he died. His family will help me finish it—so we can have many copies made for his friends and family. In the meantime I wrote a shortened version, several segments, that will be published in the Western Ag Reporter as weekly installments, and Traudy loaned me her old scrapbooks so I could scan some photos to go with those stories. He had a very interesting and adventuresome life! Here’s another photo of him and Traudy, with one of their racehorses.
Darrel & Traudy
Last Saturday Andrea and her friend Scott took her pickup and his up the creek and got firewood. We all need a bit more firewood to get through the winter.

Lynn went to town to take the box of photo albums back to Traudy, and get my package (page proofs from Storey) from the post office. It was supposed to arrive on Thursday, but didn’t come till Saturday. These are the final proofs to check over, for the 3rd edition of my Storey’s Guide to Training Horses. This new edition has photos instead of illustrations, and it’s been an interesting project trying to get all the photos right—but the editors have been doing a good job. It took them several sessions of photo shoots at a couple of horse farms, but things are coming together. The editor sent me a cute photo of a little girl and her horse “reading” one of the earlier editions of the book.
Avid readers
The pregnant heifers and 2nd calvers were running low on grass in the back field below the old barn, so we let them into the post pile pasture.

Sunday it rained a lot through the morning. I checked page proofs all day. Then after evening chores I made two big pizzas and a fruit salad and jello. We had a dinner at Andrea’s house after she got the kids home from Mark, since it was Dani’s birthday. Emily came out, and she and her friend Greg picked up the hot pizzas to take up to Andrea’s house. It was a fun get-together and Andrea took a few photos. Here’s a candid shot after dinner when some of us were still sitting around the table laughing at some interesting conversations.
birthday dinner conversations
Monday was cool and cloudy, with a little snow. Andrea and the kids left at 4 a.m. to drive to Rexburg for the chorus workshop. Chorus groups from several schools practiced all day and put on a concert that evening. Andrea took photos of the kids in their different concert groups, and Dani standing outside for a photo (nearly freezing).
Dani at Choral workshop
Dani's group at workshop
Sam's group at Choral workshop
Lynn got a frantic call that morning from a guy that needed him to locate a good site for a well, so he went to do that. On his way home he got groceries, and some more loose salt and mineral for the heifers—and I helped him put it in their mineral feeder. They ran out a few days ago.

Granddaughter Heather sent a few more photos—of Joseph and his dog Dude,..
Joseph & Dude
Joseph riding Dude
…and Gregory and grandpa John pouring concrete for a base for a new waterer for the cattle, on a very cold day.
Gregory & his dad - cement work
cement work
smoothing the cement
Yesterday it snowed off and on all day. Lynn got up early and met his sister Jenelle down at the highway (and left his pickup there) to go with her to Idaho Falls to her orthodontist appointment. Andrea and Emily also went to Idaho Falls, for Emily’s doctor appointment. The roads were very snowy at this end, but got better on up the valley and there was no snow going over the pass. It was Emily’s first visit to the specialist, for a prenatal checkup. Em will be having a baby boy sometime in March! We were glad the roads weren’t snowy all the way to Idaho Falls.

The snow here just kept coming down all day and even though most of it settled at this elevation, it got deeper on the upper place. By today we figured we’d better check on the cows, but it was too slippery to try to ride up there with our horses’ no-traction worn out shoes. The snow was just the right consistency to pack in the horses’ feet and they would be walking on balls of ice. So Andrea drove to the upper place and hiked up over the mountain to the 320 to check on the cows. She took these photos after she got up onto the ridge across from Preacher’s Spring, where a few cows were still grazing on that far side next to the range.
snow on 320 Nov 7 - Andrea's hike
She tried to call me with her cell phone to let me know she made it up there ok, hiking up the draw from the jeep road, out of sight of the cows, and to tell me how deep the snow was, but the phones were not working for several hours. She couldn’t text me (because I don’t have a cell phone—no cell service here at our house) and I don’t do Facebook, so she got innovative and sent me several e-mails, knowing that I would be working, writing articles, on my computer. She took photos to send me by e-mail and told me where the cows were. The snow was 6 inches deep up there, very soft and wet, and the cows were still grazing. She took several pictures with her cell phone, including these of herself, and some of our cows down on the lower end of the 320, but still grazing in spite of the snow. The snow wasn’t as deep down at that lower end.
Andrea checking cows on 320
cows on lower end of 320
On her way back down through the 160-acre pasture she took photos of some of Michael and Carolyn’s horses.
horses on 160

NOVEMBER 15 – Last Thursday morning Andrea made a fast trip to town to take Dani a lunch at school before the basketball team left on the bus to go to another out-of-town game. Their little team is starting to do better, and beginning to hold their own against the bigger teams and girls that have been playing basketball longer.

Andrea got copies of the kids’ school pictures. Here are Sam and Dani’s photos.
Dani's school photo
Sam's school photo
Lynn and I did a fast “lick and a promise” cleanup before some folks from California came to visit; they bought property here (planning to retire and move here in the next couple years) and Lynn located a well site for them, and they wanted to come out to our place to visit on their way home to California. They were pleased with the results on their new well. The well driller had just finished drilling it and they got 25 gallons per minute. They were also amazed because Lynn had told them it would be about 241 feet deep and the drill rig hit water at 242 feet. While they were here, they bought some of my books. They also looked at some of the work Jim is doing in his shop, creating more lamps from burr wood and antlers, and may want him to create some chandeliers for the house they plan to build.

It was really cold for several days, down to 13 degrees at night and sometimes only 30 degrees during the day. Sunday we moved the young cows from the lower back pasture; they were running out of grass after using most of the rough feed around the edges of the field and on the hillside. We were pleased that they still looked really good and weren’t “empty” but it was time to move them. Andrea took this photo as we went out into that field to call them.
calling the cows on lower field to move them
They eagerly followed Andrea, while Dani and I brought up the rear and Lynn brought their salt block on his 4-wheeler. We took them to the field by Andrea’s house, where they have access to the swamp pasture, too, and the big hill behind her house.

Then Andrea and Dani drove to the upper place on her 4-wheeler and hiked up through the 160 and 320 to check cows. Andrea took photos as they started their hike—of her and Dani, and the trail they went up toward Preacher’s Spring—to show how much the snow had settled in 4 days.
Andrea & Dani ready to hike
snow settling
Andrea took photos of Dani hiking up the trail, shutting the gate they went through to get up to the top part of the 320, and playing in the snow by Preacher’s Spring.
Hiking up the trail to Preachers Spring
Dani shutting gate in 320
Dani playing in the snow by Preachers Spring
In spite of the snow and cold weather, the cows are still doing well, and the water in Baker Creek isn’t completely frozen up so they are able to get a drink. Andrea and Dani tried to stay out of sight so the cows wouldn’t think we were going to bring them home, and didn’t disturb them. They took binoculars to try to see as many cows as they could, and check on them from a distance. Andrea took photos as they hiked over to the ridge and looked at cows with binoculars, before they went down into Baker Creek
Dani by Preachers Spring
Andrea & Dani on 320 ridge
Dani checking cows on 320
They got back just before dark. They were dressed warmly and didn’t get cold on their hike, but got a little chilled coming back down the road on the 4-wheeler, at 18 degrees. Andrea took this photo of Dani as they hurried back down through the 160 on the jeep road, just before dark, to get back to their 4-wheeler on the main road.
Dani hiking back down through 160
Monday morning was even colder (10 degrees here at our house). I had to break ice out of the horse tubs and the heifers’ water tank. Lynn had a physical therapy appointment at the hospital, but when he got home he plugged in the tank heater for the heifers, to keep their water from freezing.

Andrea drove to the upper place again (in her pickup this time) and hiked over to the 320 to check the cows and the water. The cows were spread out grazing and she was able to check the lower water trough—which had thick ice on it. We used to have a shovel stashed in the brush for clearing ice off the old trough, but in the process of clearing a spot for the new trough last year, the shovel disappeared. So she didn’t have a took to break and clear off the ice, which had gotten so thick it was about building up almost to the in-spout and by that night might have frozen the in-pipe. So she used a tree branch to break the thick ice and scoop enough of it out that the ice might not freeze that thick again in the night. While she was there she took a few photos, showing how the snow had settled a bit more, and some of the cows were headed back up to the higher grass again.
snow settling on 320
cows grazing Nov 12
snow settled - cows grazing
Monday night was cold again, down to 13 degrees. Tuesday morning Andrea was getting ready to hike over to Baker Creek to check that water trough again, but she got an urgent phone call from her friend Anita, needing some help. Anita and her son Justin were hunting elk and had shot two elk on the big mountain behind Jenelle’s place (the other side of town) and needed help to get them butchered and carried down to the road. So Andrea and Jim went to help them, and they were able to get the meat packed down before dark.

Andrea was able to make it home for a quick shower and dashed back to town to go to Dani’s basketball game. Lynn was in town to do all the town errands and stayed in for the game, too. Partway through the game Dani got pushed down and hit the floor hard, with her leg bent backward. It hurt so much she had to be carried off the court. Andrea took her to the emergency room at the hospital to have it checked, and the x-rays showed it was not broken, just badly sprained. So she’s out of the games for a while, and using ice and anti-inflammatory meds (including DMSO on the ankle) to keep the swelling down.

If anyone would like some of my books, most of my horse and cattle care “how to” books are available from Storey Publishing. I have copies of some my other books on hand, if anyone wants to order signed copies directly from me. These include the book about what Andrea went through in her fight to survive horrendous burn injuries the summer of 2000, and the unexpected detour we all took--a journey that profoundly affected our lives:

Beyond the Flames – A Family Touched by Fire. ($19 for paperback copy, or $25 for hardback, plus $4 postage).

For anyone interested in some of the adventures we’ve had over the years with our cattle and horses, and stories about life on the ranch with our critters, here are some of my other books:

Horse Tales; True Stories from an Idaho Ranch, Cow Tales; More Stories from an Idaho Ranch, & Ranch Tales: Stories of Dogs, Cats and Other Crazy Critters.

Signed copies of these books can be purchased for $24.95 each (or $70 for all three books) plus postage ($3 per book, or $7 for all three books)

Book orders can be made by phone (208-756-2841) or mail (Heather Thomas, P.O. Box 215, Salmon, Idaho 83467)

I also have some of my father’s books left. They are now out of print and hard to find. These are collections of some of his best meditations and bits of spiritual wisdom, and include By the River of No Return, Wild Rivers and Mountain Trails, Sagebrush Seed, The Open Gate, and Short People Need a Tree to Climb. These books by Don Ian Smith can be purchased for $12 each (plus $2 postage for one book, $3 postage for 2 to 4 books) or $50 for the whole set (and $4 postage).